How to blog strategically for long-term results
“What a waste of time,” grumbled a writer at a recent conference. He was responding to yet another speaker’s suggestion that a blog is one of the simplest and best marketing tools for an author or freelancer. I’ve gotten used to hearing complaints, excuses, and grumbling whenever blogs are mentioned, but I’ve also noticed how fast the whining dries up the first time a fan or client approaches, and starts a dialogue by mentioning, “I read on your blog…”.
For every writer or editor who sees the blogosphere as the anonymous, overwhelming clacking of a billion voices, there’s another who is quietly and effectively using a blog to communicate with readers and clients or as a thought-catcher, catalog of ideas, or a place to judge interest in a possible article or book topic. A blog can be used in any way you choose, but the two most important things you need to do are to get it done and get it read.
Get it Done
1- Decide the purpose of your blog. Do you want to establish a rapport with readers? Sell books? Get new clients for your writing or editing services? Your decision will help you determine your tone and what you write about.
2- Decide when and how often you’ll post. I recommend no less than once a week, so that your readers will have something to look forward to. Try to post on the same day each week, and remember that mid-day Tuesday-Thursday is usually the best time to post. People are often to busy to read blogs on Monday, and on Friday, they’re looking forward to the weekend, and not ready to do anything extra.
3- Decide what to write about. If you’re going to post once a week, you’ll need 52 short articles. Get a calendar with all major holidays marked, and begin listing topics on your chosen blog day. You can use a holiday as a springboard for posts; offer news about your book sales or your business; review other books your readers might find interesting; share news from the publishing or freelance world; whine a bit about your current project (this is recommended only if you do so in a funny way); share a great quote or poem; and so much more. If you’re stuck for a topic, post something you wrote long ago, write a response to someone else’s blog, or just post an inspiring quote.
Get it Read
1- Feedburner: Your blog posts can be send directly to subscriber mailboxes using Feedburner, a Google service. Add your blog feed, then click on its title to get to the screen where you can “Analyze, Optimize, Publicize, Monetize, and Troubleshootize” your feed. Take a little time to look at the options offered, and use these free tools tools to send your feed to where it can be read.
2– Blog Carnival: A blog carnival is a gathering of blog posts on a single topic such as writing, business, or organization. Search the blog carnival site for carnivals you’d like to contribute to, then click on “Submit a Post,” and fill out the brief form. Your post will be included (at the carnival owner’s discretion) in the next issue of the carnival. If you choose an active carnival that is posted regularly, this can bring your blog to the attention of many new readers who may in turn share it with others.
3- Incoming Links: Links are the lifeline of any website, and blogs are well-positioned to benefit from them. If you have a NAIWE blog, you already have a head start on incoming links, but you’ll want to gather more by announcing each of your blog posts on social media. Some of the simplest and most useful links come from sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, and Delicious. You can use as service such as Hootsuite or Edgar to pre-schedule updates so that they’re optimally spaced. (To view the social media sites listed above, just type each name into your browser bar and add .com.)
There are other ways to get your blog read, including blog tours, guest blogging, webrings, and blogroll exchanges, but the first three options will get you started.
Great Blog Examples
It’s a good idea to study successful blogs to see what makes them work. Remember, though, that each of these blogs has been up for a long time, so there’s enough content to draw readers. You can’t start with a hundred posts, but you can start with one, and build from there. Little by little, bit by bit, you’ll create a site that connects you with readers and clients, and meets the objectives you set when you began planning. Here are five blogs that offer very different examples. Enjoy reading, then plan your own and get started.
Seth Godin writes a long-standing blog that supports his non-fiction writing career. He’s created a vast following for his interesting posts, and that’s translated to great sales for each of his books. Here’s a good sample post: When a stranger reads your blog.
Copyblogger is where blogger Brian Clark shares his expertise in frequent, information-packed posts. He also hosts guest bloggers, which a good way for a blogger to add fresh content without having to write it all.
QueryShark is the blog where agent Janet Reid shreds reader queries. It’s definitely blood-in-the-water writing, and it gives you a strong taste of Reid’s personality and working style. She does it all in a spirit of helpfulness, and you’ll learn a lot by reading it. For Reid, it’s not just an act of charity or wicked fun–it’s smart marketing that draws potential clients like flies to a sticky bun.
Rachelle Gardner, another literary agent, offers a kinder, gentler tone on her blog on all things related to publishing. Her site is professional, attractive, and consistent.
Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is an avid blogger, and his posts are always meaty and thought-provoking. He writes about publishing and life, and manages to promote his company, his speaking services, and his author’s books in a low-key, entertaining way.
The Cozy Chicks blog is a great example of group blog. Seven writers of cozy mysteries have teamed up to create a blog that helps to market their work while building rapport with readers and fans. It’s an excellent way to share the blogging load and have fun in the process.
Beyond these examples, be sure to look at the blog feed of the NAIWE member blogs.
Janice Campbell is Director of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. She has been writing, speaking, and coaching since the 1980’s.